Skip to content

Six blue tepals and some nectar thieves!

Spring Squill (Scilla verna) 2

Spring Squill is a lovely perennial wild flower, with lilac-blue or violet-coloured flowers which emerge each Spring from the underground bulbs. It can be found all along the north and west coasts of Western Europe: including Portugal, Spain, France Great Britain and Ireland. I took these photographs at the Morouzos beach protected area, a RAMSAR site, on the Ria Ortigueira in Galicia (N W Spain).  The plants were growing on cut grass verges next to the wooden walkways which protect the vegetation from visitors to this lovely site.  This plant does not like being trampled!

Spring Squill (Scilla verna)
Spring Squill (Scilla verna)

Spring Squill is a member of the Asparagaceae family; so this little lily is a distant cousin of asparagus! Each of the squill flowers consists of six ‘tepals’ – a term which is apparantly used when the sepals and petals look identical and cannot be separated.  There are also six stamens, each capped with Cappadocia-like, dark brown anthers, effectively a ball of seeds. The blue ovary is at the centre of each flower. Interestingly, there were black ants on the flowers; but I only saw these after I opened the photographs and zoomed in! The ants are on or close to the ovaries so they are probably feeding on nectar. Ants can help to pollinate flowers by transferring pollen from one flower to another, but they can also be nectar thieves, just feeding on the nectar without carrying out any pollination services in return! (1).

Ants on Spring Squill
Ants on Spring Squill

A new species of squill from Galicia – Scilla merinoi – was recently described by some Spanish researchers from the University of Santiago (2).   Maybe this is it?!  Perhaps a botonist will see this and let me know!

1) Tia-Lynn Ashman and Emiley A. King (2005). Are flower-visiting ants mutualists or antagonists? A study in a gynodioecious wild strawberry. Am. J. Bot., 92:891-895.

2) Santiago Ortiz, Juan Rodríguez-Oubiña and Jesús Izco (2008). Scilla merinoi (Liliaceae), a new species from Galicia, northwestern Iberian Peninsula. Nordic Journal of Botany 13(2), 159-163.

rcannon992 View All

I am a retired entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.

2 thoughts on “Six blue tepals and some nectar thieves! Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

walter sanford's photoblog

Showcasing some of my digital photography and videography.


Science, skepticism and dragonflies

Paths Unwritten

Lost Cities. Forgotten Spaces. Curious Places.


Q13 FOX News

Seattle and Western Washington's source for breaking news, weather, and sports. Home of Washington’s Most Wanted and the Seattle Seahawks.

Spanish Linguist

a linguist writes about Spanish

Ray Cannon's nature notes

Every picture tells a story

Too Lazy To Weed

The not so ordinary wildlife of an ordinary (but scruffy) garden

Nature etc.

Books, birds and tales from the wild

Juha Lappalainen photography

The way I see the world around me...

Wandering with Butterflies

and other Lepidoptera

Andrew Szopa-Comley

Exploring the natural world.

Ewa Ludwiczak

Watercolour Painting and Illustration


A fine site

Mia Elizabeth Croft

Ecology, Conservation & Insects

Blogs from the Natural History Museum

Inspiring a love of the natural world

%d bloggers like this: